Warren Buffett to retire from Kraft Heinz board

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is retiring from the board of directors of Kraft Heinz Co. at the end of his term in April, the food and beverage company said Friday.

Mr. Buffett, the 87-year-old chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., will retire at the upcoming Kraft Heinz annual meeting of shareholders on April 23. He decided to retire from the Kraft Heinz board as he decreases his travel commitments, the company said.

Mr. Buffett's "many invaluable contributions to Kraft Heinz will have a lasting impact on the Company for years to come," Kraft Heinz's board chairman Alex Behring said in prepared remarks. "The Board of Directors looks forward to his continued partnership as Chairman of our largest shareholder, Berkshire Hathaway."

Mr. Buffett, who will be 88 years old in August, has been trying decrease his travel obligations in recent years. There have also been questions about the succession plan for who will take over at Berkshire Hathaway when Mr. Buffett is out of the picture.

Last month, Mr. Buffett elevated two longtime Berkshire Hathaway executives, Gregory Abel and Ajit Jain, to vice chairman roles at the company, all but confirming years of speculation that one of them is in line to replace him.

Berkshire, which comprises about 60 businesses across multiple sectors, has been led by Mr. Buffett for more than 50 years.

Kraft Heinz also announced Friday that the board intends to nominate Alexandre Van Damme to stand for election to fill Mr. Buffett's vacancy. Mr. Van Damme, a Belgian businessman, is a board member of Anheuser-Busch Inbev and Restaurant Brands International, as well as a director of DKMS, a bone marrow donor center.

3G Capital, a Brazilian investment firm, bought H.J. Heinz Co. along with Mr. Buffett's firm Berkshire Hathaway in 2013. Its partners now run Kraft Heinz Co., which was formed in a 2015 merger.

A year ago, Kraft Heinz made a $143 billion offer to buy Unilever PLC, but it was rebuffed as the European consumer giant said it wasn't a good fit with Kraft Heinz strategically or culturally.

Since then, investors have been waiting for Kraft Heinz's next bid. In a presentation last week, Kraft Heinz Chief Executive Bernardo Hees, who is also a partner at 3G, said it's looking for its next acquisition.

Kraft Heinz's brands include Kraft, Heinz, Capri Sun, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Lunchables, Maxwell House, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Planters, Smart Ones and Velveeta.